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Game 66 Preview: Panthers @ Avalanche

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After allowing a crucial game to slip out of their fingers in Minnesota, the Avalanche (32-29-4) must claw their way back into the playoff picture with a victory against the surprising Florida Panthers (36-19-8) on Thursday.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Avalanche let a big opportunity pass them by on Tuesday night. With the chance to gain some separation between them and the Minnesota Wild in the final wildcard spot, the Avalanche fell behind early and failed to complete the comback later on. Instead, the Wild walked away with the two points and the second wildcard slot in the Western Conference. In what was a back and forth game on the scoreboard, the Avs for the most part held control of the play and outshot the Wild 33-30. But the Avs gave Minnesota a handful of odd-man rushes and breakaways that they took advantage off en route to a 6-3 victory. It is those type of opportunities that the Avalanche are used to seeing Semyon Varlamov stop, but the goaltender continues to look a little shaky since recovering from the flu. Varlamov was pulled from action after the first period Tuesday and will likely be sitting on the end of the bench for Thursday's game against the Florida Panthers.

Like the Avalanche, the Florida Panthers also are finding their playoff positioning in question due to a recent surge from the other Florida team in the division, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Unlike the Avalanche though, Florida has been a huge surprise this season, surging to the top of the Atlantic division. With the playoffs soon approaching, the Panthers have made some moves to show that they are for real this year and will look to continue to hold off last year's Eastern Conference Champions down the stretch for the top seed in the Atlantic.

LINES

Landeskog-MacKinnon-Boedker

Grigorenko-Duchene-Iginla

Matthias-Soderberg-Comeau

McLeod-Mitchell-Skille

Beauchemin-Johnson

Holden-Barrie

Gelinas-Bigras

Pickard

Varlamov

NOTES

- The Florida Panthers own the fourth best penalty kill percentage on the road in the NHL. They also have one of the worst road power plays at 11.6%.

Mikkel Boedker is the first player ever in Avalanche history to wear number 89.

- Panthers forward, Jaromir Jagr is just one point behind Gordie Howe for third all-time in NHL scoring.

GAME INFO

Game time: 7pm MT

TV: ALT